Over the past month, many fall 2021 undergraduate courses have unexpectedly shifted from in-person formats to distance formats. These decisions have upset some students who have expressed their frustration with the last minute changes, especially after having already obtained accommodation.
The UCSD Guardian has contacted the Academic Senate regarding the sudden changes in course modalities. The Senate responded with a quote from Kimberly Lamke Calderón, Head of Strategic Communications and Engagement:
“The Academic Senate is responsible for approving all educational courses, including those designed for online or distance learning,” Calderón said. “Due to the evolving nature of the COVID pandemic, the University Senate (EPC) Education Policy Committee approved an exception in the spring of 2021 to allow any undergraduate or graduate course to be offered remotely at fall 2021 without obtaining the Senate approvals normally required. ”
Calderón’s statement also explained that instructors make decisions on course modalities in conjunction with their academic departments and programs to better meet the needs of students.
The Guardian has also contacted the administration at UC San Diego regarding the number of in-person and distance courses during fall 2021. According to Assistant Director of University Communications Erika Johnson, currently 76% (about 3,123 ) courses at UCSD are face-to-face and 24 percent (992) courses are distance. These numbers are subject to change throughout the term as faculty continue to use their discretion to change course terms.
Many students were frustrated that their courses went online after struggling to find accommodation for the term amid the housing crisis. John Muir College senior Savannah Muñoz saw her four courses go remote in August after finding accommodation in San Diego.
“I sincerely thought [courses would] be in person, ”Muñoz said. “I paid half of my booking fee for an Airbnb because it was really hard to find an apartment near UCSD that I could afford, and my credit rating isn’t great, so I thought an Airbnb would be the best. I booked it in June when we got emails saying everything would be in person in the fall.
Muñoz also shared his experience of distance learning during the 2020-2021 academic year, but also acknowledged concerns professors may still have regarding in-person teaching.
“Honestly, I have ADHD and other issues that made distance learning extremely difficult for me last year,” added Muñoz. “I finally got the hang of it and a ton of support so I think it’s going to be okay, but I was really looking forward to being in person. But I understand that some teachers don’t feel comfortable, so I totally respect that.
Meanwhile, professors are now responsible for deciding the safest option for themselves and their students. Gary Fields, professor in the communications department, explained in an email with The Guardian why he chose to go remotely for his class.
“Let me first say emphatically that in-person teaching is far better for everyone, faculty and students,” Fields said. “When I finished teaching in the spring term, I thought this would be the last time I would teach online. I like the dynamism of a classroom. I waited until the very last moment to form an opinion on online teaching for our course. My concern, of course, was health and safety not only for myself, but for the students. “
Professor Fields also added that he chose to wait as long as possible to switch the course to a remote format for student safety:
“I know the university has very strict conditions in place on all campus activities,” Fields said. “At the same time, when I really thought about the prospect of 35 students in a closed room – even with all the vaccination and masking protocols, I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea that my class could possibly result in a person’s infection with COVID. “
For fall 2021, UCSD has implemented numerous COVID-19 policies to run in-person classes. Fully immunized students living on campus must take a weekly test during the first four weeks of the fall term. Students on campus who are not fully immunized are required to take tests twice a week. This is in addition to the university’s vaccination mandate, which requires proof of vaccination for all students, staff and faculty.
For more information on campus plans for fall 2021, visit the Return to Learn website and to learn more about COVID-19 testing on campus, click here.
Photo by Darren Bradley Photography via the San Diego Tribune